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876030 No. 876030 ID: d052fd

It's all gone. The plants are all dead. The bacteria in the soil are all dead, so I can't grow more. The heads at NASA are going to "get back to me," whatever that means. I just don't have enough food. I've been trying to keep a positive attitude about this since being stranded here almost half an Earth year ago, but this is it, isn't it? I'm going to die here, alone on Mars.

I've had nobody to talk to for so long but text on a screen, and the guys at mission control aren't great conversationalists even without the delay. It's not crazy if I imagine different personalities in my head to talk with now, is it?

I've been out of the game for a while. Skills have atrophied. Apologies for the roughness while I reacquire them.
324 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 881877 ID: d052fd
File 152515394720.png - (92.74KB , 845x511 , 044.png )

Honestly, this doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. If anything, I'm more concerned that she seems to think that I will be weirded out by it in the first place, considering what I've already accepted that she is capable of. "Ira, I moved past weird and into acceptance around the time I got over you standing around outside my airlock. I'm actually relieved; it's good to hear that you're not risking your life on my behalf. Also, thanks for making me a panini! That sounds great."

Ira freezes and looks over her shoulder at me. The soft music fills what would otherwise be a moment of silence. She turns back to the silverware drawer. "Is everyone on Earth so accepting these days, or is it just you?" she asks, still looking away.

"Honestly, I don't know," I reply. "I'm sure some people will be. I'm also sure some people won't be. I'm sure you'd have an easier time winning people over individually than as a group, but who knows?"

She turns around and leans against the counter, looking off into the distance. "Mm," she grunts.

"I uh...actually had a dream just now where I had to explain all this to the director of NASA and a bunch of, I dunno, men in black or something," I say. "That's actually how I remembered it was called Refeeding Syndrome. I guess I learned it at some point, but couldn't remember it consciously, then my unconscious mind dredged it up out of my memories somewhere?"

Ira snaps out of her reverie. "Oh yeah, that definitely happens. Your brain develops specific ways to think and sometimes stuff just winds up locked away. If something puts you in a different state of mind, like dreaming, sometimes it comes back. That's actually one of the benefits of this brain scan thing I'm doing: when I use a different set of neural pathways with my thoughts and memories, all kinds of new stuff pops up to the surface. I've only used procedurally-generated brains based on my own so far, though, so I'm excited to see what will happen when I try someone else's." She gestures to me. "So, how'd that talk go in the dream?"

"Oh, you know, it was a dream, so it went badly." I feeling my face start to grow a little warm. "They were staying all serious and clinically detached, while I was trying to explain...uh..." I start to trail off as I have a hard time choosing my words. I finally settle on, "...how I spent the night last night."

Ira snorts. "Uh, yeah, sounds awkward," she smiles subtly and starts turning red as well. "I wouldn't make a big deal out of it. I just-I mean, I think we both just needed some company, yeah?"

"Of course, yeah. No big deal. Er, wait, uh, was that what you think I should say to them, or..."

"Oh! Well, I guess...don't ask me what should go in your report, bud. That's- I mean, shouldn't that be up to you? Or...uh...I guess I did, uh, initiate, so maybe..."

"So if it was up to you, I'd say, 'no big deal'. Which...cool, sounds like we're on the same page there. So...no big deal, nothing to worry about. I'm just saying that, in the dream, it was awkward, with my boss acting like, you know, 'describe your interactions with The Entity,' and me trying to find a way to say, 'Uh, well, sir-'"

"'-You cuddled with The Entity!?'" she barks, trying to copy the same gruff voice I used for my boss. We both laugh, red-faced. "Whoooops. Yeah, I guess I did kind of make your report difficult, there."

I smile and shrug. "Don't worry about that. Here in the waking world, I doubt they want a minute-by-minute account. Even if they do, it's fine if I just say 'and then I took a nap.'"

"Ah, right. Cool," she responds, no longer blushing quite as furiously. She collects my food as it descends from the fabricator delivery panel and brings it to me at the table, sitting across from me. "You should take the vitamin first," she says, pointing to another horse pill like the one from yesterday.

"Thanks," I respond. "Hey, not to pry, but I hope you're not hiding, y'know, why you are the way you are just because you're worried about freaking me out...?"

Ira shoots me half of a smile. "Nah," she replies, simply. She doesn't elaborate.

I swallow the vitamin as I think of how to proceed. "Okay, good. Because, you said I'd be able to figure out why, but it would stress me out if I did. I'm still not sure what you meant there?"

She looks down, the half-smile now fixed. "Yeah. I guess it was less clear than I thought? I still don't want to stress you out, but I guess it'll have to come up at some point."

I swallow my first bite of panini. My train of thought is suddenly derailed. "Holy shit, Ira, this is delicious!"

The other half of her smile surfaces. "Thanks, dude. Hm. Why don't you finish that up and then we'll talk? Oh! Actually, are you still okay with me scanning the rest of your body to help error-check my drug?"

"Sure," I reply. I start to stand up.

Ira waves her hand at me. "You can stay seated. I might as well get us both here at the table; it's about time to check myself again, too." She nods her head to the now-empty bag on her shoulder. "I just finished the full dose."

I nod and continue ravenously scarfing down the food. The scanner panel re-emerges from the wall and kicks off more high-pitched whining, which lasts a little longer than usual this time. When it finishes, Ira disappears into the bathroom.
No. 881878 ID: d052fd
File 152515396450.png - (94.91KB , 841x542 , 045.png )

I finish the panini and drop the dishes into the sink slot. Without anything else to do, I wander to the window and stare out at the stars, listen to the music, and try to bury the unidentifiable anxiety at my impending conversation with Ira.


A couple of minutes later, Ira steps out of the bathroom and drops the IV bag, shoulder strap and all, into the sink slot. I meet her eye, we smile, and she nods her head towards the couch. "C'mon, Mike, let's sit," she says.

She seats herself cross-legged at one end of the couch, facing the other side where I plop myself down. "This is serious, huh?" I say, trying to ablate the tension somewhat.

Ira shrugs. "Maybe," she replies, cryptically. "I might just be paranoid. I'm probably just paranoid. And, I guess I haven't been sticking to this too well anyway, and I'm sorry for that..." she starts to trail off.

"Paranoid? About what, me telling people something?" I ask, trying to predict the direction of this conversation.

"No! No, not about you. For you. It just worries me that...well, you noticed your superiors at NASA didn't seem to know anything about me, right?"

"Yeah. I mean, I figured there's some sort of cover-up going on..." I falter as I start to get the bigger picture.

"But you know I'm from Earth, right? Somebody on Earth could have told them what I am, what they were dealing with. But they didn't. Nobody wanted them to know. Nobody but you, and all you could tell them is that they should treat me like a human. I assume they're fine. But, I don't know what would cause them not to be fine. I don't know what would cause you not to be fine. I don't know how much knowledge about me would cause problems for anyone. But, based on the fact that nobody at NASA was debriefed, I have to assume it's some amount less than all of it. And I'm paranoid. So..."

I start to piece it together. My heart begins to race. "...So you're afraid that I could be part of the coverup if I know too much?" I fall back against the couch. "But...I'm a major news story! People send me letters! They know about me around the world! They can't just make me disappear!"

Ira's eyes meet mine with an intense expression. She puts her hand on my shoulder. "Breathe, bud. Look, I'm not dropping you off very publicly in the middle of Houston just so you don't have to hitchhike. You're right, if they wanted to cover you up, it would be very hard for them. I mean it, I'm probably just being paranoid!" She pinches the bridge of her nose. "Ugh. You don't need this stress right now. I'm really sorry, Mike."

My mind races. "But you could stop them, right? You could give me some way to call you, or...or you could put a tracking device on me, and come pick me up after a certain amount of time, wherever I am?"

Ira looks shocked. "That's...asking a lot of me, Mike." She looks off into the distance. "I...think...? What exactly are you asking?"
No. 881880 ID: 69d4b9

I think you need to calm down, Mike. Think about what you're actually asking. Whatever a nebulous they could do to you, your fame and prominence as a public figure would indeed make it very hard for them to hurt you.

Ira's chosen approach is probably the correct one. The other option is to ask her to basically keep a ship hidden somewhere near or on Earth just for picking you up if things get dicey. And then what? You live with Ira for the rest of your life? She's a really nice person, but that's a huge ask.
No. 881881 ID: dbf422

I mean, nothing if she's bothered by it, but all you'd really need is a quick pick up and then she can just drop you off in another country or something. Unless it doesn't work like that. Unless you're seriously considering sticking with her?

Until then, just be very vocal about how weird it is that the people who know about her aren't saying anything, maybe hide with NASA, since you are pretty sure they're clean.
No. 881882 ID: 33cbe7

New plan: Lend me a remote body and I'll do the walk of shame in that. Then, in the dead of night, we swap out my body double for my real deal.
No. 881883 ID: 830fb7

With the whole tracker idea she could set it so it activates after a week, becouse if you are going to disappear wouldn’t you rather be with her. She could hide on the dark side of the moon or somewhere else in space waiting for the signal then when it activates locate you, pick you up and leave.
Plus if they want you to disappear all they have to do is say they lost contact with you on the mars station and hide you/kill you. Then make it look like they are doubling their efforts to rescue you but have the mission be unsuccessful. Hiding/covering things up is some of what they do best.
No. 881887 ID: 69d4b9

I think all her bodies are girls.
No. 881890 ID: 600f38

"I think I'm asking if The Doctor wants a Companion.
I've spent my entire life dreaming of a life in space, advancing science, bettering peoples lives, and seeing things beyond our damp rock.
At this point, the best way to do all those things is by helping you.

Please, let me get all this out at once so I don't get sidetracked. When I mentioned I was hearing voices, you immediately recognized it as a sign of a deteriorated mental state brought on by isolation. No hesitation or contemplation, you knew what it was and what it required right then and there.
You haven't shown that level off viligance or attention anywhere else. Your initial travel time estimate was based on an accelration too strong for my condition, and you realized that on reflection. The ship you built for this trip didn't include a washing machine in its design. You got distracted by science and forgot to sleep. You initially were going to skip the testing phase on this new treatment. Now, I want you to know I'm fine with all that and it's all good in my book, but it tells me you're used to jumping out of planes and building your parachute on the way down and prone to getting distracted. You know how you work, and you've got to adapt to somebody else being around.
But when I said I was hearing voices? Full attention, careful consideration, and focus.
But you're not a psychologist, Ira, are you. You don't have years of training and experience shouting 'this is a red flag'.
You've been trying to play it down, but you're terrified about your own mental state. You've been in isolation for years, and your coping method is to learn and apply.

With that said, the best place for me to be in order to best achieve my goals is with you. At this point it's pretty clear that abandoning you to isolation would be cruel. I can't have a friend suffering like that when I could help.
Also, I can start reintroducing you into society. Start a vlog or something - 'Mike and the Queen of Mars'. If ordinary folk get used to the idea of you then there's nothing some sack in a suit can really do about it. Eventually, people will be ready.
Also, I think I can help keep you grounded, and make sure you take care of yourself. I understand I'm a halfway decent rubber duck debugger, too.

If that's ok with you, anyway.

As far as actual plans go?
Well, for all intents and purposes you're unstoppable. Gimme a quick calculation, and I don't need the answer - what could anybody on Earth do if you decided to forego retroacceleration and just do a constant burn for Earth?
Whoever is against you doesn't want you as an enemy, they just want you as far away as possible. They don't know what you are capable of physically, and they don't understand what you're emotionally incapable of doing.
If you say publicly that you'll pick me up in a week, I don't think they would try to get rid of me. Then you drop by and pick me up on the 6th day to hamstring their planning.

Or, you could drop off a spare body with me and act like it's a servatoris - a robot there to observe and act as friendly contact. People tend to believe an AI when it says it doesn't know the answer to a question.

Ugh, these ideas are focusing on me. That's no good.
Ira, what would you like out of this?"
No. 881911 ID: 7bf5b9

say absolutely none of this because of the absolute insane number of assumptions and bizarre logical leaps here

she can be a bit reckless and might find value in a counterweight, but also, holy shit you're a botanist not a shrink

anyhow, let's settle on "sorry head's racing right now but a game plan if any sort would be fantastic right now.

how likely exactly IS this a coverup? how long ago did you last have contact with earth even, is it even probable people Know you exist?"
No. 881914 ID: dbf422

First two paragraphs are very important, very little of that speech makes sense to say.

As for how long she's been off Earth, she's said 25 years, so she's definitely known about. Whether or not it's full X-Files conspiracy is undetermined, but it has been covered up at least.
No. 881929 ID: 2007b6

Instead of Houston, how about the United Nations building in New York? Just walk up to some receptionist or security guard or whatever, "Hi, I'm Ira, queen of Mars, I'd like to join your organization as a member nation and have my sovereign territory formally recognized. Is there an application form I could fill out or something? I'm in a bit of a rush, left my spaceship double-parked."

I think she's got a really good fabricator, and high-res scans to work from. Android body doubles sufficient for a press conference seem plausible.
No. 881943 ID: cb585b

Well, insurance incase somebody tries to assassinate you, especially after the excitement and celebration starts to die down after your drop-off. I mean even before Ira came by your life has changed a hell of a lot, so what if some shadowy organization is going to hunt you to the ends of the Earth and possibly beyond for knowing a huge secret they would kill to keep?
No. 881950 ID: b53bd0

a quick and dirty robot body doubly would be great, if anyone asks why your double looks really inhuman you can just say you look like ass because malnutrition.
No. 881975 ID: 600f38

That would also work.
Doubly so if she hovered into the room so people don't think she's yet another crazy person claiming to be queen of Mars.

Mike can't use a robot duplicate.
The process for a returning astronaut involves being held for decon and receiving a medical evaluation, and even if Ira's robots can pass a medical evaluation it won't give them good data on Mike, and won't get him the medical evaluation he needs.
No. 882141 ID: 69d4b9

Anyone who counts is going to be able to figure out she is who she says she is by proof of her delivering a stranded astronaut from Mars.

Why's everyone going paranoid-stupidphrenic today?
No. 882142 ID: 600f38

Cosplay and trolls exist.
I'm sure they would eventually get things sorted out, but showing of saves a lot of time.
No. 882278 ID: d052fd
File 152533020683.png - (136.04KB , 1038x842 , 046.png )

I try to take a deep breath and focus. I really don't know what I'm asking, but I get the impression that asking her to come pick me up and charter me around might be pressing my luck. I just decide to start spitballing ideas. "Could I use a robot body double, at least for the first few days?"

Ira shakes her head. "What? No. Hard no. If I wanted to root around in your skull to install the stuff you'd need to drive one, and if you were some kind of natural who picked it up immediately, and if I were okay with leaving my technology undefended in your body, they would still notice with even a cursory medical exam, and they'd never trust that it was the real you after that. No."

"Okay, okay. Maybe you could drop me off at the U.N. building in New York instead, and then just sort of hover in and ask to have your sovereign territory on Mars officially recognized?"

Ira raises an eyebrow. "Are we still talking about helping you avoid a coverup? I don't see how that helps you, and it causes a lot more problems for me. Plus, we already told them to expect you..." Ira trails off, looking pensive, "...in...Houston." Her eyes widen suddenly. "Oh, goddammit, I'm an idiot!" she exclaims. She hops up from the couch and a hologram projector in the ceiling turns on with a whine.

"What?" I ask, not sure if this should be cause for further alarm.

Ira keeps her eyes fixed on the empty air in the center of the room, which begins to fill up with 3D blueprints of many unidentifiable machines. "Your comms don't go through the shield, but mine do. So, uh, put 'comms relay' on the List of Things I Should Have Thought About Sooner, right next to 'laundry.'" Her eyes dart around her schematics furiously. Wherever she looks, things start to move and connect.

"Wait, I'd be able to talk to NASA again?" I ask.

Ira is too engrossed in the aerial monochrome information ballet before her to look at me when she responds. "Yeah! I don't even need to put it in orbit. I can just park it a few dozen kilometers up from our LZ. It'll get us a visual on the site, plus radio noise, which probably means media coverage, assuming I can decode it...unmanned, obviously, so I don't have to limit the speed, as long as I build it sturdy..."

"Will we have to turn the shields off to get it away from the ship?" I ask, looking out the window for signs of the blue shimmer.

"Oh hell no. Even discounting the radiation, the dinky little fabricator on the ship takes half an hour to make a plate of food. I'll just beam the blueprints to another fab and launch from there. I have much faster ones...elsewhere."

"Ah. So would the relay be to tell NASA to pick me up somewhere else?"

"Potentially. Hang on, just a sec..." Ira focuses in on one specific part, which seems to undergo some sort of high-speed simulation, shift slightly, and repeat, with each iteration adding another tick to a plot on a graph. After about 20 seconds of this, she audibly inhales, looks up at the plot, nods knowingly, and continues. "Sorry, what were you asking?"

"How does this thing help?" I reply.

"Well, for starters, you'll have open comms again, though I might recommend not using them until we take at least a cursory examination of the situation. It will let us watch the landing zone before we arrive, and let me watch you after I leave. Unlike most of the stuff I'm used to dealing with, people are going to change their behavior because they know I'm coming. If we know what they're changing, it gives us a better idea of what to expect when we get there. If they're evacuating Houston and digging trenches, that tells us one thing. If the media still thinks you're on Mars, that tells us another thing. If they're setting up giant lists of prime numbers and dioramas of the solar system in the field, that tells us something else. Information is always helpful."

"Oh, okay. Are you going to put weapons on it?" I ask.

"Not intentionally," Ira replies, quickly.

Something about that response tells me not to press the issue. "Ah, alright." I gesture to the expanding hologram. "Can we play games on this thing?"

Ira chuckles. "Maybe if I designed them? All my games come on systems that are pretty much hardwired to put out a 2-D image. Plus I'm limited to shades of blue, here."

"Oh? We have multi-color holograms on Earth," I reply.

Ira stops what she's doing and looks at me. "Wait, really? They need smoke or something to project onto, right?"

I shake my head. "Nope."

"Curved piece of glass?"

"Nah. Just these two pole things with lasers and prisms, and a little hockey-puck projector in the middle."

Ira's brow furrows. "This one I have uses a prohibitively large amount of power for household terrestrial tech. Are those even based on quantum interference?"

I shrug. "I don't think so? I honestly don't really know how it works, but I had one at home and it just plugged into a normal wall outlet."

"Huh," she replies, thinking. After a moment, she shakes her head and turns back to the blueprints. They spring into motion once more. "Well, I guess if any field of technology was going to surpass me, it would be entertainment. Something to look into if I'm in the neighborhood again."

"You don't feel like dropping by from time to time? See what you missed?" I ask.

All at once, several areas of the hologram collapse into discrete components, which then duplicate and merge into a single model of what I can only presume is Ira's satellite. "Alright, Mike; how about I'll consider it, if this trip goes well. To that end, voila. Comms relay, broad-spectrum monitor, high-def telescopic video feed, and enough propulsion to pull a sporty 13.3 g in vacuum, all in a one hundred forty six point two six kilogram package. I can get it built and in place innnnnnn...about eleven and a half hours. Er, plus about a 10 minute delay before we get the first signal. Will that make you feel better about the situation?"
No. 882279 ID: 824ac6

"Yeah, for sure. I also, however, recognize that I may be a bit paranoid about this situation maybe perhaps a little bit. I just need to take a moment here."
No. 882283 ID: 2d8f5b

won't they shoot it down? i didn't hear you mention shields.
also, it'll be out of any airplane/space probe/space ship or whatever's way, right?
No. 882295 ID: b53bd0

the fact it's designed for vacuum means in space, and unless you look RIGHT at a thing in space it's very easy to miss it.

yeah, a eye in the sky goes along way.

but what if they are sneaky? like everything looks normal but when i pass by a car someone pops out and puts a burlap sack on my had, shoves me in the back and drives off?

yes i know, paranoid, but kinda sorta literally insane at the moment with the head voices.
No. 882308 ID: dbf422

I say lay off on the paranoia for now. Bring it up in short bursts from time to time but she's already doing something to deal with this bout. We'll see how things go from here, and maybe we should start taking things as they come instead of worrying about every potential problem. At least for now, to give Ira a break from the crazy.

So saying all that, I think what she's doing is really awesome and helpful. She's continually gone above and beyond, and we don't even know if the coverup is that serious. Could be They didn't feel like causing a potential panic for what was then an isolated incident. Or They convinced themselves it never happened. Or Their contingency plan is to capitalize on it by handling the situation publicly and diplomatically.
No. 882311 ID: 600f38

"Sorry, still panicking.
My biggest concern is whoever wants you off-planet deciding to shove me in a hole in the ground and cover me up. Figuratively or literally.
The only ways to keep that from hanging over my head is to make it irrelevant or impossible for them to do anything about me.
Sorry about bringing up the Queen thing again - I was thinking if you went very, very public and opened a lot of channels at once then I'd be irrelevant, but that's selfish.

The eye in the sky helps a lot. Thank you, Ira."
No. 882314 ID: 2007b6

>"Not intentionally," Ira replies, quickly.
A hundred-kilo brick that can be accelerated at ten-plus Gs for... days at a time? Weeks, years? ...complete with a diverse sensor package and onboard brains to interpret what it's seeing, is already a fairly scary weapon. Throw in her shield tech, to kick Newton's Impact Depth Approximation in the teeth, and it bears the same resemblance to a cold-war nuclear missile that a modern tank has to a matchlock musket.

If she were to include purpose-built weapons, it would be with the goal of increasing the quality of prospective violence - precision, avoidance of collateral damage - not the quantity.

Say, once she's got the comm relay built, maybe send another one to check in with your abandoned farm back on Mars, see if they sent any more messages after you left?

Also, make a note of the exact time, then again when the comm relay is in place. Between that and the mass and acceleration specs (so many decimal places!), some intelligence analyst with a background in orbital mechanics would probably be able to deduce quite a lot about what her main fabbers can do and where they might be.
No. 882334 ID: 39c221

let's please not ask the living demigid to give us weaponry of any sort let alone wmds

come on guys
No. 882336 ID: b1b4f3

Heh, if we're avoiding a coverup she or you or both of you could get an interview, and have the footage distributed in secret over the internet. Once it spreads enough it's near-impossible to contain.
No. 882345 ID: 0e2ebe

??? Secrecy is far less reputable than the plan they have already, which is "be seen very publicly, and on national TV"
No. 882365 ID: 2fe26a

Yes and if you could make sure it lands on my ex-girlfriend's place afterwards, that'd be great.
No. 882379 ID: 600f38

Its most likely on Mars.
It took 3 days to create this ship, while the fabricator on this ship produces matter at about 2kg/h. We know this ship was produced for this trip, and we know production couldn't have started before we met Ira or after it arrived.
Since the ship fabricator can produce about 144kg in that time, and the ship is significantly heavier (It looks to be in the 150,000Kg range), that tells us she has a fabricator on Mars that is at least 1000x faster.
To make a conservative estimate, I'm going to assume that it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to make anything. That leaves 11 hours for travel time. I'm just doing back-of-the-hand calculations, but at 13.3G that's about right.

Honestly, with a bit more time I could calculate out the exact time needed to manufacture it depending on where it's being made.

I'm a bit surprised Ira doesn't have a fab on the moon. Maybe she was just worried somebody would visit it?
No. 882428 ID: 600f38

Nope! Math error.
Constant acceleration is d=(1/2)at^2
BUT you want to solve for doing HALF the time, then double that result. So it's (1/2)d=(1/2)a(t/2)^2
Distributing things out and simplifying, that's d=(at^2)/4
We know a is 13.3g, which is 130.4m/s/s.
We know t is 11 hours, which is 39600 seconds.
So if it was instantly built and started on its journey, then the maximum travel distance would be 51,122,016km. That's well short of the current distance to Mars.
The asteroid belt is even further away.

That leaves the Moon, and Venus.
If Venus is its average distance away of 40 million km then the travel time would be 9.73 hours, and the probe would take 4070 seconds to produce - just over 68 minutes. Meaning the assembler on Venus would be a modest 50x faster.

If it's on the moon then the travel time would be 1 hour, the assembler would take 10 hours, and it would be a mere 5x faster than the one on the ship.

Ask Ira how Venus is this time of year. Is it t-shirt weather for her?
No. 882439 ID: d052fd
File 152540626506.png - (147.06KB , 1205x674 , 047.png )

"Uh, yeah, I guess so..." I say. "But, won't they shoot it down? I didn't hear you mention shields."

Ira frowns. "Shields are the reason I can't send or receive any communication signals that NASA would know how to pick up in the first place. Giving it shields would defeat the purpose. If they're trying to shoot it down, we have big problems that would require a drastic change of plans anyway, so let's only worry about that if it happens."

My pulse doesn't seem to have slowed down. "I'm sorry, the eye in the sky is great, but I'm still kind of panicking. My biggest concern is whoever wants you off-planet deciding to shove me in a hole in the ground and cover me up, figuratively or literally-"

"Oh my god, Mike," Ira sighs, covering her face with both hands. "What do you want from me here? Dude...I like you, but I can't just descend from the sky and say 'This one human is my chosen one, be nice to him or I'll de-orbit the moon.' I'm taking you back to Earth, I'm showing up in a spaceship in public, and...and I can take reasonable precautions to make sure you're not going to get blown up or assassinated or...whatever immediately, but I can't play bodyguard for you long-term. I just can't. If Earth's response to my existence is to cover up all possible links to me, then...I'm sorry, Mike, but you're just not worth fighting the whole world for. There's a certain point where I have to say, 'This isn't my fault anymore.'" She collapses into the chair behind her. "I know that's selfish, and I hope you will forgive me, but..." she trails off and shrugs exasperatedly.

Silence lingers around us. I take a deep breath and a moment to process what she said before I start again, calmly and quietly. "You're right. You're not being selfish. I am. But...it doesn't have to just be about me. You said you wanted to help people, and I'm not the only one who needs protection." Ira visibly winces, but I continue. "I'm sorry to keep bringing up the queen thing, but if you went very public and opened a lot of channels at once, you could do a lot of good, and...well, bonus, I'd be irrelevant to the coverup."

Ira draws her legs up into the chair and rests her forehead on her fingertips, staring blankly off into space. She doesn't reply.

Starting to feel uncomfortable, I try to cut through the silence. "Just...just explaining my thought process. Sorry for bringing it up again. You've done a lot for me already, and the satellite's great. Thank you. I recognize that I may be paranoid about this situation, and maybe kinda sorta literally insane with the head voices. I'll...uh, take a moment to calm down and give you a break from the crazy."

Ira's eyes snap to me and her face shifts from exasperation to sympathy. She exhales heavily and stands. The hologram winks off. As she walks behind the couch past where I'm sitting, she ruffles my hair and says, quietly, "You're not crazy, bud." I watch her move over by the scanner panel. "Why don't you watch a movie, play a game or something? Get your mind off things." The scanner whines briefly. "I need to catch up on some work. I'm overdue for this scan and haven't even looked at either of ours from before lunch yet. I'll be in my room. Let me know if you need anything."
No. 882440 ID: b53bd0

yea, let's chill a little.
No. 882441 ID: 600f38

Sure, lets practice Smash for awhile.
Interrupt her in 4 hours for a lunch break.
No. 882443 ID: e80ece

Hey if you can just not listen to the voices for awhile, I bet you'd feel better. Helpful or not, all that paranoia has got to suck.
No. 882444 ID: 600f38

"A weather report on Venus?"
No. 882445 ID: 33cbe7

yeah, could you maybe stop acting on every paranoid voice's new conspiracy theory? I think we're reaching past Uranus at this point.
I recommend The Day the Earth Stood Still. Or maybe My Favorite Martian. Ooh! How about marathoning ALF? You'll never guess how it ends.
No. 882447 ID: 68b795

honestly my biggest worry is not seeing her again after she drops us off. it's too early to worry about assassinations yet, gotta wait for the drone's report.
No. 882449 ID: 600f38

ALF Spoiler: Getting cancelled immediately after part one of a two-part episode.
No. 884183 ID: e3e99e

Actually, are there any books or anything you could read? Something relaxing would help.
No. 884918 ID: 6fa8e1

I’d assign a high probability to there being a completely innocuous reason.Maybe the NASA people decided to keep everything on the down low to avoid upsetting the friendly alien, or decided to wait on telling anyone before having seen her themselves. That means knowledge of the current sighting has not yet reached those who knew about her beforehand and no information exchange could happen.

Maybe whoever knew her in the past decided to keep it secret for some reason. Like others not thinking they are crazy. Or for personal reasons.

Or someone higher up decided to conceal any evidence that they turned away someone willing to uplift humanity. That cannot be good for popular opinion.

Or, or or... there are many possible reasons.


I’m still for some rudimentary precautions. At least some sort of signal to let her know if you are being silenced. A sort of distress beacon. If worst comes to worst, at least she would know people are violently concealing her existence.
No. 885285 ID: af0a57

I don't think NASA knew anything about Ira before three days ago.

We'll know more about the state on the ground when the probe gets there.
A distress beacon does sound like a good idea, but let's bring that up later.
No. 885294 ID: 33cbe7

Do we have to phrase it like 'distress beacon'? Just ask for her number. A cell phone could easily conceal some space-age tech in it to get intergalactic service.
No. 885319 ID: dbf422

We've already brought stuff like this up to her and she's said she can't just drop everything for us. This begging needs to end.
No. 886145 ID: e3e99e

Yeah, lets drop this for now.
We can get her phone number on day 3.
No. 887788 ID: e3e99e

We can also ask her out for drinks on Day 3.
No. 1008826 ID: d052fd
File 163004245267.png - (255.29KB , 1085x2691 , 048.png )

>>882443 I don't know how to feel about my voices advising me not to listen to them. I guess I should take that as a sign that my head is in a pretty weird state.

I decide not to slow her down with questions about Venus, instead replying, "Okay, thanks."

She nods and disappears through the door of her room, leaving me sitting alone on the couch.

I close my eyes. I can't just distract myself immediately, first I have to clear my head. Deep breaths, in and out. I focus my thoughts on my toes, clear my mind of everything else, until I can almost feel them tingle under the gaze of my inner eye, all tendons in them loosening. Then my feet, my ankles, my shins, my calves, my thighs, my waist-

-I could ask her for a cell phone, or at least something that looks like one? It would be easy to conceal some high-tech communicator inside something that was already designed for communication, and-

-No. Start over. Deep breaths. Toes. Feet. Ankles. Shins. Calves. Thighs. Waist. Up my torso. Down my arms. Then starting at the base of my neck, and up-

-Maybe someone high up decided to conceal evidence that they turned away someone willing to uplift humanity? But why, and what lengths would they go to in order to keep that evidence concealed? The sheer-

-No. I force my brain to derail. Start again. Up my legs, up my torso, down my arms...my inner gaze moves up the back of my neck, and I am vaguely aware of my head drifting slowly back against the couch cushion. Muscles slack in my face that I did not even realize were tensed. My breathing stays tranquil as my mind completes its journey across my body. As the last tingling subsides in my scalp, there is nothing left. My mind is silent. And for a very, very long time, the chatter of the voices fades into emptiness.
No. 1008827 ID: d052fd
File 163004248073.png - (778.18KB , 1050x6000 , 049.png )

...The unhindered stars, and the dim blue glow of the shield...

...I'll never have to ration my toothpaste again...

...She's still laughing at my dumb jokes. I wonder if she's as lonely as...

...Does she have to build every grain of rice in the paella from base elements, or...

"...Klaatu barada nikto..."

"...Good news! I'm clean. Now take your shirt off..."

"...The probe's final approach. Wanna watch?"
No. 1008828 ID: d052fd
File 163004250156.png - (395.45KB , 1050x2588 , 050.png )

No. 1008829 ID: d052fd
File 163004252062.png - (168.31KB , 1176x937 , 051.png )

Something cuts through the silence I had forced on my mind. A growing sense of unease swells inside me, with a source I can't easily identify. In that beautiful image of the slowly-growing blue dot, a small white swirl...

Ira turns to me with an expectant smile, but her face drops when she sees my expression. "Everything alright, bud?"

I didn't mean to bitter the sweetness of this moment, but I suppose my face wasn't hiding it very well. "O-oh, uh, yeah. Sorry, just noticed the hurricane there."

Ira glances back at the screen. "Oh, yeah, look at that. Doesn't look like it's made landfall, though."

"Yeah," I nod.

She shoots me a sympathetic half-smile. "I think most of them don't. Might not even be a hurricane, anyway. Lots of tropical storms look swirly but don't actually touch down. I think it's kinda pretty, even. I mean, doesn't compare to the storms on Jupiter, but-"

I chuckle, and her face lights up again. She seems pleased to be keeping my thoughts positive. We share a smile, and I keep it on as I turn back to the screen. But still, I feel like I should be remembering...something.

"About time for another scan, I think," Ira says after a moment. "Still feeling alright?"

I take a look at the bag on my shoulder, slowly feeding a grayish liquid into the port under my collarbone. About a third gone. "Actually, yeah. Maybe it's just placebo, but I think I feel more energetic. Should it be working that fast?"

Ira nods. "It might. C'mon, by the time we finish your checkup we'll probably be about ready to get the first view of our LZ."
No. 1008830 ID: d052fd
File 163004255987.png - (122.94KB , 1056x852 , 052.png )

I am alone with my thoughts for a while as Ira returns to her room to inspect my scan. The dreams I was having, the image of the hurricane, all of our previous conversations, they roll around in my brain fruitlessly. It seems like ages before my benefactor returns.

"You're looking good, bud," Ira says, emerging from her room. "I said it before, but you're a badass."

"Or maybe your medicine's just that good," I reply.

"Oh yeah, definitely that too," she says. "I am very smart, after all." She gestures to herself with sarcastic cockiness. "Oh, yeah, how's the whole 'hearing voices' situation going? Any developments?"

I barely hear her last sentence as something clicks into place in my mind. Of course! The hurricane, the dreams, the conversation. Snippets of a half-remembered news story flood to the front of my brain.

North Sentinel Island, the unknown society in the Indian Ocean, was wiped out in a hurricane a few years ago. There were no survivors, no trace of their culture. It would forever remain a mystery. I got the impression Ira may not have been talking about that particular island literally before, but whatever her point was, it seemed important to her. I'm not sure if I should tell her or not, at least not without a clearer idea of what she was getting at.

Ira cocks her head to the side slightly. "Mike? Bud? You're getting that look again."
No. 1008832 ID: d052fd

Apologies for the precipitous drop in art quality, it's been a while since I arted.
No. 1008835 ID: 96c896

Well ask for her to explain it to you again. Then if you feel you understand her better, you can decide whether or not to tell her what happened to the Sentinelese.

If we frame it as if she was talking about them explicitly, then the question is, is it moral to force information/technology on an insular culture if the alternative is that they get wiped out by natural disaster?
Well, in that case there's a third choice. Shield them from the natural disaster, but don't give them the technology that would replicate the feat. In the case of the Sentinelese, well, the only thing that could be done by modern technology would be to invade and non-lethally capture the entire population, hold them somewhere secure until the hurricane passes, then put them back on the island.
No. 1008839 ID: f7f340

You may want to confirm that information before actually relayng it to her.
No. 1008869 ID: c92a02

Well, it's something to talk about at least. Oh yeah, North Sentinel island was washed away a couple years ago. But hey, there's plenty of other isolated tribes out there you could flex on, right? Maybe you can even spot a few nobody else has found.
As for the Sentinelese in a figurative sense, at least she got to talk to one. It's more than your anthropologists got. Were there even ruins left to study?
No. 1008870 ID: d052fd
File 163010003247.png - (77.72KB , 763x466 , 053.png )

I'm not sure how I could possibly verify it without relaying the information to her inadvertently. I am fairly certain in my memory, though; I specifically remember now that the news report about the hurricane was how I learned about the island in the first place.

Yeah, I guess I could just get her to explain herself. She's expecting a response from me anyway.

"Uh, sorry. Yeah, I'm still hearing the, uh, voices. They were quiet for a while there, but they came back."

Ira looks concerned. "Huh, I wonder why that happened. Something stressing you out?"

"W-well, I was just thinking about what you said about that island. Uh, North Sentinel Island."

Ira nods her head towards the couch and takes a seat. "Yeah?" She doesn't provide anything else, and her expression is unreadable.

I take the seat on the other side. "How, uh, literal were you being about that? Were you actually talking about that island, or..."

I trail off, but Ira picks it up. "You're asking if I meant it as a metaphor from the beginning, or if it turned into one halfway?"

"I guess that...so, it was a metaphor."

Ira seems surprised. "Yeah, didn't you-" she cuts herself off and takes a deep breath, as if reconsidering her words. "Sorry. It's hard to tell, when I haven't talked to anybody in a while, how into my own head I'm getting. How well-understood I am. Maybe you can relate." She shoots me a sad smile, which I return with a shrug. "If I were talking about the island literally, well...it is an interesting case, isn't it? There's a lot out there on Earth that could make their lives objectively better. But if someone from, say, America said they wanted to quote-unquote civilize those people, it's a problem, yeah? It's disrespectful, taking away their agency to make those decisions for themselves, implying there's some threshold of civilization that they're failing to meet, destroying their culture, all that stuff."

I think for a moment and nod noncommittally. "And if you're not talking about the island literally, if you're talking about...about the entire Earth, all of humanity..."

She looks me in the eye pointedly. "I don't think it should be my call whether you're civilized enough."

I try to replay what I recall of our prior conversation in my head. "...And you just want to show up and exist to defy the people who you think already made that call. The people who already said they don't want to be shown how big the world is."

Ira sighs. "No, Mike. I don't. You said so yourself: I don't know how people would react. It could hurt a lot of people. Just because I may now be able to live out my-" she flails her hands through the air as if searching for the term, "immature escapist power fantasies doesn't mean it would be right. The less I have to do with Earth, the better. Current errand notwithstanding."

I find myself uncomfortable and turn to face the screen. I can barely make out Trinity Bay on the rapidly-enlarging image; the probe is almost in range. Or, will have been almost in range, 10 minutes ago when it sent this signal. I'm not sure whether her explanation makes the information about the island more or less worthy of sharing, but if I'm going to bring it up I should probably do it before the deluge of distracting data arrives.
No. 1008871 ID: c92a02

Mention it. It goes to show: Don't just wait for Earth to call back, you never know what you'll miss in the meantime.
No. 1008872 ID: f8fa51

Do say it. Also say that's why you got stressed out thinking about the island. But don't press her on it.
No. 1008904 ID: 6519cb

Also, this kind of thing is best done one step at a time. Bringing Mike back will be enough to make people think for a while. She should come check back later, and see whether our leaders have doubled down on trying to contact outer life, or instead chosen to bury their heads in the sand.
No. 1008931 ID: d052fd
File 163019477481.png - (199.22KB , 609x1294 , 054.png )

Right, might as well go for it.

"Ira, I just...something else that came back to me when I was asleep, something I didn't put together in my head immediately. North Sentinel Island was wiped out by a hurricane six, maybe seven years ago."

Ira's eyes widen. "What?"

"T-there was nothing left. I remember seeing it on the news. That's what was bothering me about the hurricane, I-"

"-Stop it, Mike. That's cruel." Ira's eyes narrow again and her brow furrows. She shakes her head, disbelieving. "This isn't a metaphor anymore, we're talking about real people."

"It's not a metaphor, no, you're right, i-it is cruel, and I'm sorry, but it happened. I thought you should know."

I feel like I should say more, but nothing comes out. Ira stares off into the distance, lost in thought. I see pain, anger, and confusion on her face. When she finally speaks, it begins with a croak, as if she has something in her throat. "History is full of...dictators, murderers, monsters, who got away with what they did for too long because they convinced people they just wanted to help. Maybe they even believed it themselves. How could I...how do I know I'm not-" she chokes on the end of her sentence and buries her head in her hands.

I put my hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry" comes out of my mouth, but I don't even really know why.

"I could have helped those people," she replies, not moving. "I...I could have helped a lot of people." She sniffles and peers up over the top of her hands at the screen in front of us. Her eyes are red and wet. I glance up as well, noting that the probe is zipping around getting different views of the scene. A fence, some police, a lot of civilians, handmade signs, tents. Ira keeps staring. "Why's everyone wearing masks?"
No. 1008932 ID: d052fd
File 163019479914.png - (87.55KB , 776x954 , 055.png )

The question comes out of left field for me. "Oh, uh, yeah, I guess that was after your time. Uh-"

Ira drops her hands and turns to look at me. "I'm guessing disease?" I can't really read her expression. Maybe resolve?

"That's the long and short of it, yeah." I reply.

"And those levees around the bay, those are new. Rising sea levels?"

I nod. "Yeah. Rising temperatures, melting ice caps..."

She looks back and forth from the screen to me. "Still on the petroleum kick, I see. Hit peak oil yet?"

"Uh, there's a global shortage, last I heard, so..."

"And how about the nuclear weapons? People start dismantling those?"

"N-no. No, there's more of those around than ever."

Ira takes a deep breath, wipes her eyes, and nods purposefully. "Sounds like I have my work cut out for me, then."
No. 1008938 ID: c92a02

So does everyone else down there trying to deal with those things. Maybe you could work through them.
No. 1008946 ID: 094652

If you really want to know the tipping point between "power fantasy interfering" and "needs help now", use your powers to get a mental vote:
Do people believe they can change anything?
And if most of them say no then it's a sign that they're not that free to decide their culture after all.
No. 1008951 ID: b1476c

Ask her what the island was to her. Tell her that, even if she doesn't want to tell you, you'll be there for her because someone should be.
No. 1008968 ID: f8fa51

Tell her you're not sure there is such a thing as a right answer here. Her concerns are completely valid. As are the consequences of not acting. Ultimately, she's the only one who can make that decision. You're not going to resent her for deciding it's not her problem.
No. 1008980 ID: 64ac8e

She'll have to come up with a way to stay grounded. Power corrupts inherently.
No. 1008989 ID: 9512c4

Offering people the chance to be better has historically caused fewer problems than trying to force people to be better.

The technology difference is great enough here that she's not really contemplating being a benevolent dictator, she's contemplating being a god. Any type of leadership role is going to come with responsibility, and "a god" is almost the biggest possible responsibility you can ask for besides "the God" - I'm assuming she can't be everywhere at once. Pretty sure no human (sorry, person) has the maturity level for that.

If she wants to involve herself, it would probably be better if she just offers again to help, rather than dictating the type of help she'll be offering. How can she help people help themselves, and not just some people but ALL people?
No. 1009108 ID: 6c227a

Look, the islanders put up a unified front of saying they didn't want help or contact, so that's... leaving them alone was respecting their wishes. The people on earth.. I mean, I'm here. I'm accepting help offered. And I appreciate that you brought me the soup I absolutely needed as an opener, instead of offering to solve all my problems at once. This whole thing is a LOT, and I wouldn't have known what to do with it all at once anyway.

Maybe if somebody had shown up on the beach when the wind was already knocking down trees with storm shelters, North Sentinel Island would still have people on it. Maybe they would have even started talking to us. But I doubt they would want to move to New York, you know? A helping hand doesn't have to mean domination and assimilation like that. We still do international food aid and disaster relief with no strings attached. Though lines are getting stretched thin, and it's getting harder every year. We definitely couldn't brave a hurricane with work crews to fabricate a bunker. Could you?
No. 1009111 ID: d052fd
File 163035718913.png - (99.33KB , 486x683 , 056.png )

I am a bit taken aback by Ira's change of heart. I had tried to convince her to get more involved in humanity already on this trip, but now that she seems to be showing an interest, it's suddenly hitting me how Earth-shattering that will be. I may have just had the most important conversation of my life, and the enormity of it washes over me like a cold wave. I start babbling.

"Y-yeah, so does everyone else down there trying to deal with those things? If you're going to offer to help, then...well, given the technology base you've demonstrated here, that would be amazing. But, your concerns are valid, power does corrupt, and, uh," I am very aware of Ira staring piercingly at me but my mouth doesn't seem to be stopping now, "You'll need some way to stay grounded. I mean, I can be there for you, because somebody should be-"

Ira laughs awkwardly and holds up a hand in a stop motion, mercifully cutting me off. "Mike! Mike. Bud. You're sweet. You're just-I can't. Believe me, I know what this means, and you and I both know it's bigger than you. Sorry. Making you some kind of...confidant makes you the weakest link in my whole situation, and that's not a position I want to put you in." She sniffles and wipes her nose again, then looks at her hands. "Augh. Yes, thank you meat body, making my face all juicy right now is definitely helping. Just...give me a second."

Ira hops up and runs to the bathroom. I hear her blow her nose, clear her throat, run the faucet. I take a moment to take some deep breaths and let the redness in my face subside.
No. 1009112 ID: d052fd
File 163035721539.png - (155.91KB , 485x1294 , 057.png )

After a minute or so, Ira steps out of the bathroom door and claps her hands together. "Okay! We got off-topic for a second there. I'm going to need to ramp some stuff up before any of that is even relevant. One problem at a time, and our current problem is getting you home safely."

I can tell she's trying to change the subject. "Ira, I'm serious, if you want to talk about what you're planning, I'm here for you."

She shakes her head. "Nope. I will not, cannot discuss any future plans with you, short of those having to do with our current mission. Captain's orders, final answer, moving on." She points to the screen and continues, "Sitrep on the ground: I see a lot of civilians in the area, and a small peacekeeping force who seem mostly concerned with keeping them off the grounds. There's some construction going on, but it doesn't look military in nature. On the feed, we're looking at about six twenty on the morning of June thirtieth, twenty-forty-two. It's early, but it looks like plenty of people are up. I've heard us mentioned on the radio, but I don't know if I can gauge public opinion from that. Currently working on hacking some internet access, and I queued up a soft pattern of search terms to crawl for and dump on me whenever that's available. But, even without that, we can rule out a public blackout of information regarding your travel situation here, and it seems like overt military action against us when we land isn't a major concern." She stops for a breath for what seems like the first time in all of that infodump, but quickly picks up again. "I think we're probably safe to continue with our current landing plan, and you can probably resume comms with NASA if you'd like. We're currently moving about twelve hundred forty kilometers a second, about a hundred eighty million kilometers out from our destination, so our current lightspeed comms delay is just shy of ten minutes. I can send text, audio, video, whatever you want. Unless you have any other ideas?"
No. 1009117 ID: c92a02

Let's record a video to say we'll see them soon, and compliment our benefactor gracious and very understanding host.
No. 1009118 ID: 094652

"Attention, America. [Insert professional speech about the sacrifices made] to find meaning behind the stars.
I have succeeded.

As of this moment, I hereby declare an act of war by invasively scanning your homes for concrete evidence of sex trafficking, which will then be distributed across the internet for local authorities to investigate. To anyone who attempts to dispose of the evidence before the police arrive: this battleship will surgically assassinate you upon entry."
And then list the names of those who have people chained to the walls, followed by a succinct The-Reason-You-Suck speech.
No. 1009141 ID: 84f28b

Maybe we check in with audio, rather than video? That way they don’t see the banana bag until they need to (if at all), or don’t feel the need to pick apart your background/surroundings.
No. 1009192 ID: 9512c4

Continue with previously-established landing plan. If you feel a need to send any message at all, a simple audio or text message stating that you're on schedule should suffice.

"Ira, is there some way I can at least stay in communication with you after I get dropped off? Even if being your confidant is too risky, I think the rewards of being your friend outweigh the risks... *chuckle* and not just because you might be planning to take over the world. You probably saved my life, and I'm not the type to forget that."
No. 1009263 ID: d052fd
File 163054299096.png - (102.90KB , 778x602 , 058.png )

"Attention, America. I left-"

"Hang on, you shouldn't just address America. People are following your story all over the Earth."

"Attention, people of Earth. I left this beautiful land behind what seems like eons ago on a quest. A quest to find meaning behind the stars, to shed light on humanity's future, to provide another stepping stone on our ascent to glory.

"I have succeeded.

"As of this moment, I hereby declare an act of war by invasively scanning your homes for concrete evidence of sex trafficking, which will then be distributed across the internet for local authorities to investigate. To anyone who attempts to dispose of the evidence before the police arrive: this battleship will surgically assassinate you upon entry."

"We can't do that, Mike, this isn't a battleship."

"Oh, true."

"That's obviously the only problem with everything you just said."

"This space Winnebago will surgically assassinate you upon entry."

"I guess we could throw some rocks at them."

"That doesn't seem very threatening, Ira."

"We could throw some rocks at them...from orbit."

"Now we're talking."

"But could I take such a power into my own hands? Am I, atop my spacely throne, truly fit to be the ultimate judge, to rain death and destruction down upon the world's evildoers? To be jury and executioner for every man, woman, and child of Earth?"


"You would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Tempestuous as the sea, and stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!"

"Wow, nevermind. I don't wanna be ruled by some nerd that memorizes Tolkien."

"Shit. I don't guess it would help if I said I didn't have it memorized, I just searched for 'terrible as the dawn' with my mentally-linked computer?"

"If anything, that makes it worse."

"Well, damn. Guess it's back to space isolation for me, then."
No. 1009264 ID: d052fd
File 163054303165.png - (65.94KB , 561x487 , 059.png )

Ira grins. "Alright, got that out of your system, Mike?"

"Yep. You good?"

"Ready when you are."

"Oh, is it a problem that they'll be able to see my..." I point to the nearly-empty bag of grayish liquid strapped to my shoulder. "...My shoulder buddy?"

"Nah. Might be worth a mention, though. I can send them a schematic of the molecules if you think they'll be worried."

"You'd just give away the details of your superscience miracle drug?"

"...Yyyyyyes? It's a medicine; I don't think it's weaponizable."

"Okay, but you could, I dunno, sell it or something."

"Wow, Mike, your American is really showing there."

"Hm. Maybe. Still, I don't think you need to share it unless they ask."

"If you say so. Ready to record again?"

"Yeah, may as well. You wanna be in the shot from the start this time?"
No. 1009265 ID: d052fd
File 163054305605.png - (68.78KB , 561x352 , 060.png )

"Hey, mission control. Just checking in to let you know that my gracious host has found a workaround for the previous comms blackout."

Ira waves to the camera. "Sorry about that, bit of an oversight on my part."

"In case there was any question, yes, the big glowing blue ball hurtling towards Earth at astounding speeds is my ride. Smooth sailing so far, and we're on schedule. We're expecting touchdown on July second, around two to three in the afternoon your time."

Ira nods. "Oh, and I see you guys started building some sort of landing platform out there. No need to mess up your nice field, I can just park on the grass." She smiles, but with a slight hint of smugness.

I hold up one of the potatoes I brought back with me. "I'm bringing you guys a souvenir. Hope you don't mind if I never want to look at a potato again, though."

Ira chuckles. "Speaking of the potatoes, I'm doing what I can here to help sort out Mike's whole...nutritional health situation, but I do want to reiterate that an actual doctor should be ready to take a look at him."

"That's all I have for you right now. You should be able to communicate back through the same channels we were using on Mars, but Ira made a document detailing easier broadcasting methods she'll be able to pick up, too. Looking forward to seeing you all in a couple of days."
No. 1009266 ID: d052fd
File 163054309475.png - (116.66KB , 593x793 , 061.png )

A few minutes later, Ira gets back the first infodump from the probe's internet searches. She reviews the data in a process that mostly seems to involve her sitting down and staring blankly into the distance, occasionally reciting information. "All your messages and images were shared freely with the public," she says. "Still no statements from anyone who should know about me. Lots of speculation. Some of it...comes close. But, given the sheer volume, that's not unexpected." A moment passes before she speaks up again. "What the shit? U.S. president Elon fucking Musk?"

"Yeah, that's-"

"Then who's the Russian- Ramzan Kadyrov? Fucking hell."


"Liang Hung- At least that's not a name I recognize. But still, jesus fucking christ, humanity, get your shit together." Ira blinks quickly, and her eyes come back into focus. She looks at me and plasters the least-genuine-looking smile I have ever seen on her face. "Right! Mike. Yes. I'm sure they're very reasonable men. Commendable rulers, all. Looking forward to speaking with them. Sometimes I just yell for no reason and I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring that up in your report, thanks."

I can't help but laugh a little. "Right, sounds fine to me."

She shakes her head and exhales with a quiet "hooo!" before her eyes glaze over again. Before long, she makes another pained expression. "Palestine, Libya, North Korea..." she mutters, trailing off without elaborating.

I walk over to Ira and put a hand on her shoulder. "Ira. Hey. Maybe you should stop doomscrolling. I know you've been out for a while, but it's not healthy."

Her eyes focus on my hand, then up to meet my gaze. She nods weakly in the affirmative. "Yeah. Yeah, you're probably right. Okay." She hugs me around the waist from her seated position. "Thanks, Mike. Whatcha wanna do instead?"

My mind wanders to other activities. What do I want to do instead, not just in the immediate sense, but for the remaining duration of the trip?
No. 1009268 ID: d052fd

Author's note: I'm about to start another voiceless fast-forward. If there's any other activities you guys wanted to get to, either immediately after this conversation or at any point before the ship arrives on Earth, now's the time to get them in. If any of them are important enough to warrant coming out of timeskip, I will. Otherwise it will probably be folded into the travel montage.
No. 1009282 ID: f8fa51

Get to know Ira better, as a person. We've established by now that asking questions about her technology is mostly a no-go zone, but hanging out, sharing opinions and developing your friendship is something that both might help you in the future and you won't likely have an opportunity to do once you land for quite some time.
No. 1009348 ID: 9bf2ef

Come on Mike, let her share the drug. She wants to help. If you're too capitalist for that, suggest that she trade it for hologram schematics. That was Earth tech she doesn't have.
No. 1009407 ID: f57349

Call the United Nations, offer to trade public release of non-weaponizable biomedical knowledge - presumably they've got a list of priority research subjects and major unsolved problems sitting around somewhere - for recent videogames and other entertainment tech. Boredom's mission-relevant, right?

Experiment with some spicier food.

Check in with friends and family.

Look yourself up on Wikipedia.
No. 1009930 ID: d052fd
File 163115934927.png - (48.72KB , 477x292 , 062.png )

I shrug and smile. "No real game plan here. I'm getting pretty hungry, though. I kinda want to try something spicier..."

"Cool, that's doable. I was thinking we'd celebrate the end of your first round of the medication with a steak or something, too. I'll print out a couple of antacids, and maybe a capsule of gut flora for you to take beforehand."

"Woah, a steak? I thought you were a vegetarian."

"Technically, all food I make with the fabricator is vegan."

"Oh, right. Fair point. Oh, about the meds, it's probably fine if you share them. But, have you considered offering them in trade for hologram schematics?"

"I, uh, actually already got those from Wikipedia. At least, I got the operating principles and I'm pretty sure I can make something work from there."

"Nice. Do I have a Wikipedia page?"

"You do! I'll send it to your laptop."
No. 1009931 ID: d052fd
File 163115938449.png - (141.08KB , 835x759 , 063.png )

The rest of the day is a flurry of activity. Between my friendly conversations with Ira, the constant stream of information she is able to deliver from Earth, my conversations with NASA and my friends and family, and my rapidly-improving health, I find that the voices begin to fade away into the back of my mind.

Ira and I grow closer during the trip, but she almost seems more reserved after our conversation about her Earthly interventions. She's still very physical and cracks jokes frequently, but closes out conversations about herself even more quickly than before. When it comes time to go to sleep, she gives me a hug and a gentle shove towards my own room, before retiring to hers and shutting the door behind her.

Ira has some solo conversations with mission control as well. After seeing her on video with me, they seem to open up somewhat. At least, they address her as a person instead of an unknown extraterrestrial entity. She answers all the questions they have about my current well-being and dodges all of the rest. While they are grateful when she shares the compound that she injected me with, all they say is that they have experts looking it over to figure out how it works and how to synthesize it.

By the time I wake up on the final day of the trip, the voices seem like a distant memory.
No. 1009932 ID: d052fd
File 163115941170.png - (155.47KB , 1000x1150 , 064.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 3:55 AM CT
>2 hours, 41 minutes before the relay probe reaches Houston
>58 hours, 36 minutes before touchdown


"My holograms got you in the mood for monochrome, huh?"

"Something like that. I'm at the point where Star Trek and Doctor Who are starting to feel like slice-of-life affairs. Thought I'd go for something oldschool."
No. 1009934 ID: d052fd
File 163115943603.png - (130.21KB , 1000x1030 , 065.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:29 PM CT
>2 minutes before touchdown

"As the-the craft descends, we can make out some more details. Four legs, or what seem to be legs-"
No. 1009935 ID: d052fd
File 163115946599.png - (75.44KB , 700x600 , 066.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:02 AM CT
>58 hours, 29 minutes before touchdown

"Troops have been rushed across the Potomac River from Fort Meyer, and have thrown a cordon around the ship. They are supported by tanks, artillery, and machine guns..."

"Tanks? This seems like overkill."


"Wait, do you think they'll be tanks aiming at us when you drop me off?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. There will be guns, at the very least. Even in the best-case scenario, people want to have some sort of precautions."

"Are you...okay with that?"

"Try not to worry about it, Mike. I doubt any of these hypothetical guns would be pointed at you, and I'll wear my armor just in case. In any case, we'll know more when the probe gets there; no use worrying about it now."
No. 1009936 ID: d052fd
File 163115949756.png - (777.22KB , 1951x2400 , 067.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:31 PM CT

"...Some kind of metal man standing next to our astronaut, unclear at this time if this is the 'Ira' being we saw in the videos earlier..."

"...Confusion at the front of the crowd, as some people seem to be running away, and others seem to be pushing forward past the barriers. The military is trying to divide its attention between keeping the crowd back, and the spacecraft..."
No. 1009937 ID: d052fd
File 163115951908.png - (141.11KB , 1400x1200 , 068.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:04 AM CT
>58 hours, 27 minutes before touchdown
No. 1009938 ID: d052fd
File 163115956302.png - (222.24KB , 1102x1117 , 069.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:32 PM CT

"...The medical team seems to be having difficulty removing the astronaut, it seems he is trying to say something to the robotic creature. It-it appears that the being is having a conversation with a NASA scientist, we are unable to make it out at this distance..."

"...Holding up a hand, as if to say 'wait a moment,' unclear at this time what-"
No. 1009939 ID: d052fd
File 163115958495.png - (161.03KB , 1400x1200 , 070.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:04 AM CT
>58 hours, 27 minutes before touchdown

No. 1009941 ID: d052fd
File 163115964711.png - (432.38KB , 1324x1713 , 071.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:32 PM CT

No. 1009942 ID: d052fd
File 163115966986.png - (176.96KB , 1400x1200 , 072.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:04 AM CT
>58 hours, 27 minutes before touchdown

No. 1009943 ID: d052fd
File 163115970412.png - (305.41KB , 1877x1082 , 073.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:32 PM CT
No. 1009944 ID: d052fd
File 163115972640.png - (249.96KB , 1451x1229 , 074.png )

No. 1009945 ID: d052fd
File 163115973959.png - (171.09KB , 1579x1291 , 075.png )

No. 1009946 ID: d052fd
File 163115976725.png - (272.09KB , 956x1221 , 076.png )

"O-oh god. Ira, are you...you're okay, right? I was worried y-you needed time to, uh, swap bodies, but you're fine, right? T-that wasn't, uh, too fast for you to-"
No. 1009947 ID: d052fd
File 163115978846.png - (495.19KB , 1500x1941 , 077.png )

"Ira? This is you, right? You're okay. Please say something-"
No. 1009948 ID: d052fd
File 163115981616.png - (206.16KB , 1063x799 , 078.png )

No. 1009949 ID: d052fd
File 163115986240.png - (459.08KB , 1027x3578 , 079.png )

"Oh god, uh...Klaatu barada nicto! Klaatu barada nicto!"
No. 1009950 ID: d052fd
File 163115987656.png - (767.95KB , 1053x5000 , 080.png )

No. 1009954 ID: 094652

... Well, that just happened.
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